This month was supposed to be about the U.S. national team January camp invitees and which of those players distinguished themselves to earn more looks with the first-choice national team.
Instead, the old guard stole the spotlight.
While a couple of players who took part in the January friendlies put forth efforts that might merit future call-ups during friendlies and World Cup qualifying, it was the incumbent first-teamers who have made it quite evident that they won't be relinquishing their meaningful international minutes anytime soon.
A landmark month for top-tier Americans playing club soccer abroad was capped by a noteworthy weekend on a number of fronts, as three national team stalwarts and one relatively recent international convert were involved with goals across the globe.
Landon Donovan etched his name further into Everton lore with two assists in the Toffees' FA Cup victory over Fulham. The match featured Donovan and fellow U.S. alpha dog Clint Dempsey going head-to-head as opponents for the first time since an MLS match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution on May 6, 2006, and unlike that day, when Dempsey's side rolled to a 4-0 victory, Donovan stole the show with his contributions from the right wing. Donovan has now had a hand in setting up five goals in the six games he's played for Everton while on loan from the Galaxy, and he has taken away all ammo from detractors who thought that returning to Everton could wind up damaging the sterling Premier League reputation he left behind after his last loan in 2010.
A player who has spent this entire season restoring his reputation is Oguchi Onyewu, and while it is the imposing center back's defense that ultimately matters the most on the international level, his ability to contribute offensively off set pieces continues to re-emerge during his comeback season. Onyewu scored two goals off set pieces in Sporting Lisbon's victory over Beira Mar, marking his first multi-goal game since April 18, 2009, when he was playing for Standard Liege in Belgium.
Two other American internationals, DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson, found the back of the net over the weekend as well. Beasley showed off the spry legs, quick instincts and stout finishing that made him a member of the last three U.S. World Cup teams with his early game-winning goal for Puebla in Mexico. He completed a trademark run into space down the left flank, got onto the end of a well-placed pass in the box, cut back to his right foot and pumped a shot into the back of the net for a vintage finish.
Johnson's goal came in a losing effort, but the versatile German-American displayed a clean finishing touch, using his left foot to one-time a cross for a consolation score in Hoffenheim's loss to Dortmund. In his two brief appearances for the United States, Johnson has shown strong offensive instincts and technical skill, and Saturday's goal was another example of what he is capable of accomplishing in an attacking role.
Taking into account the weekend's performances, Dempsey's two recent hat tricks and the transfers of players like Robbie Rogers and Tim Ream to English clubs, the quest at cracking Jurgen Klinsmann's roster moving forward may have gotten even more difficult for domestic-based, fringe national teamers despite their month-long auditions for the U.S. boss. To say that the January camp was a futile exercise would be a stretch, as it helped grow the player pool, provide up-and-coming players some experience and give Klinsmann a better understanding of who is at his disposal, but for the bulk of the national team players who were already in the manager's good graces, there seems to be little to worry about when it comes to future appearances.
As for all of those Americans whose clubs abroad were in action over the past week, here's how they fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Fulham's 2-1 loss to Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. SEASON: 31 games, 31 starts, 15 goals
Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and assisted on two goals in Everton's 2-1 victory over Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. Donovan delivered a left-footed cross from the right side that found Denis Stracqualursi in the 27th minute, and the Argentine striker headed it in from the center of the box to level the score. Donovan then sent in a right-footed cross from the right to find Marouane Fellaini, who headed home the winner in the 73rd minute. SEASON: 6 games, 6 starts
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- In the 18, did not play in Tottenham's 1-0 victory over Watford in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 83 saves, 24 goals allowed, 8 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 3-2 loss to Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday. SEASON: 9 games, 8 starts, 30 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton -- In the 18, did not play in Everton's 2-1 victory over Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Everton's 2-1 victory over Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. SEASON: 24 games, 24 starts, 55 saves, 26 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 3-2 loss to Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday. Lichaj's appearance on the bench marked his first time being with Villa's first team since an Aug. 23 League Cup game, his only action this season. He missed the last five months after undergoing hip surgery. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Tim Ream, D, Bolton -- Not in the 18 for Bolton's 2-1 victory over Swansea City in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. Ream was approved for a UK work permit and had his transfer from the New York Red Bulls get finalized last week. While Ream said on a conference call with reporters that manager Owen Coyle is looking to integrate him into the team immediately, this Wednesday's match against Arsenal -- and Ream's former Red Bulls teammate Thierry Henry -- may be too soon for his debut. "I don't know if we're going to have the work permit back in time to be back, but that would be one heck of a storyline," said Ream, who confirmed that West Brom wanted to take him on loan before Bolton stepped forward with a permanent transfer offer. At Bolton, where he has a three-and-a-half year contract, Ream will team with U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden, who continues his rehabilitation from his second long-term injury spell this year. "Having him around will make the transition easier," Ream said. "I see how much he loves it there and how well he talks about the club and people there. (Talking to him) wasn't a deciding factor, but he definitely eased my mind." SEASON: 0 games
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Norwich City's 2-1 victory over West Brom in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. SEASON: 13 games, 13 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- In the 18, did not play in Derby County's 2-0 loss to Stoke City in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest -- Nottingham Forest did not have a match this past week. SEASON: 22 games, 13 starts, 5 goals
George John, D, West Ham -- West Ham did not have a match this past week, but John took a step toward claiming time with the first team by scoring a goal for West Ham's reserve side in a 90-minute outing against Gillingham. SEASON: 0 games
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham -- Like John, Potts participated in the club's reserve fixture this past week and played all 90 minutes. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Robbie Rogers, M, Leeds United -- Leeds did not have a match this past week. Rogers is expected to be part of the first team for Leeds' match against Birmingham City on Tuesday, but he may not see the field just yet after recently finalizing all of the necessary paperwork to go forward with his transfer. "Robbie was away in America last week sorting his visa so he didn't train with us until the back end of the week," Leeds manager Simon Grayson said on the club's website. "He's been working over the weekend, but Tuesday might just come too soon for him after the week he's had." SEASON: 0 games
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 4-0 victory over Sheffield United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. SEASON: 34 games, 34 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford -- Not in the 18 for Brentford's 5-2 victory over Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday. SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Carlisle's 4-0 loss to Hartlepool United on Saturday. SEASON: 6 games, 6 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall -- Walsall did not have a match this past week. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United -- Started, played 90 minutes in Oxford's 1-1 draw with Burton Albion on Sunday. SEASON: 17 games, 5 starts, 4 goals (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Timmy Chandler, D, FC Nurnberg -- Not in the 18 for Nurnberg's 1-0 loss to Hannover 96 on Friday. Chandler, eligible to return after a two-game red card suspension, missed the match with a hamstring injury. SEASON: 19 games, 19 starts, 1 goal
Steve Cherundolo, D, Hannover 96 -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hannover's 1-0 victory over FC Nurnberg on Friday. The win was Hannover's first in league play since Oct. 23. SEASON: 17 games, 16 starts
Joe Gyau, M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- In the 18, did not play in Hoffenheim's 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Fabian Johnson, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 77 minutes and scored a consolation goal in Hoffenheim's 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Johnson got on the end of a cross in the center of the area and clinically finished on a one-timer taken with his left foot. SEASON: 18 games, 14 starts, 2 goals
Jermaine Jones, M, FC Schalke 04 -- Not in the 18 for Schalke's 4-1 victory over FC Cologne on Saturday. Jones completed January training camp with the U.S. national team and returns to Germany, where he is two games into his eight-match suspension for intentionally stomping on the foot of Borussia Monchengladbach's Marco Reus. SEASON: 16 games, 12 starts
Alfredo Morales, D, Hertha Berlin -- In the 18, did not play in Berlin's 2-1 loss to Hamburg SV on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games
Daniel Williams, D/M, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim -- Started, played 90 minutes in Hoffenheim's 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Williams, normally a defensive midfielder, started at center back for the second straight game. SEASON: 16 games, 10 starts (1 game, 1 start with SC Freiburg)
David Yelldell, GK, Bayer Leverkusen -- In the 18, did not play in Leverkusen's 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 save, 4 goals allowed
Michael Bradley, M, Chievo Verona -- In the 18, came on as an 80th-minute substitute in Chievo's 1-0 loss to Siena in the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday. Bradley started and played 74 minutes in Chievo's 3-0 loss to Lazio in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 20 games 18 starts
Quentin Westberg, GK, Evian Thonon Gaillard -- Not in the 18 for Evian's 0-0 draw with Bordeaux on Sunday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts, 8 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Jozy Altidore, F, AZ Alkmaar -- In the 18, came on as a halftime substitute and picked up a yellow card in AZ's 2-0 loss to Roda JC on Saturday. SEASON: 29 games, 22 starts, 9 goals
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon -- Started, played 90 minutes, picked up a yellow card and scored both goals in Sporting's 2-0 victory over Beira Mar on Sunday. Onyewu scored on nearly identical plays in the 18th and 27th minutes, first heading home a corner kick from the edge of the 6-yard box and then doing the same off a free kick taken from the same side of the field nine minutes later. SEASON: 23 games, 23 starts, 5 goals
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 90 minutes in Anderlecht's 3-1 victory over KAA Gent on Tuesday. Kljestan also started and played 76 minutes in Anderlecht's 0-0 draw with Beerschot on Saturday. SEASON: 30 games, 30 starts, 3 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC -- Not in the 18 for Rangers' 4-0 victory over Hibernian on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes in Rangers' 4-0 victory over Hibernian on Saturday. SEASON: 24 games, 24 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic -- Not in the 18 for Celtic's 3-1 victory over Falkirk in the semifinals of the League Cup on Sunday. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts, 37 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets (all with Greenock Morton)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC -- Started, played 74 minutes in Rangers' 4-0 victory over Hibernian on Saturday. SEASON: 29 games, 27 starts, 3 goals
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla -- Started, played 80 minutes and scored the only goal in Puebla's 1-0 victory over Jaguares on Saturday. An in-stride Beasley received a ball in the box with his left foot, cut to his right and place a powerful a shot inside the far post to account for the game's scoring in the third minute. SEASON: 4 games, 3 starts, 1 goal
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL -- Started, played 90 minutes in Tigres' 1-0 loss to Union Espanola in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores preliminary round tie on Wednesday. It marked the first game action on the club level for Bornstein since May 4, when he appeared as a halftime substitute for Tigres against Chivas de Guadalajara. Bornstein was in the 18 but did not play in Tigres' 2-1 victory over Estudiantes Tecos in league play on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana -- Started, played 90 minutes in Tijuana's 3-1 loss to Santos Laguna on Sunday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Joe Corona, M/F, Tijuana -- In the 18, came on as a 30th-minute substitute and picked up a yellow card in Tijuana's 3-1 loss to Santos Laguna on Sunday. SEASON: 3 games
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, San Luis -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in San Luis' 3-1 loss to America on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana -- Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 3-1 loss to Santos Laguna on Sunday. SEASON: 1 game
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna -- In the 18, did not play in Santos Laguna's 3-1 victory over Tijuana on Sunday. SEASON: 2 games
Sonny Guadarrama, M, Atlante -- In the 18, did not play in Atlante's 2-2 draw with Cruz Azul on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Jose Francisco Torres, M, Pachuca -- Started, played 90 minutes in Pachuca's 1-1 draw with Queretaro on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts